History tells us that the origin of Santa Claus begins in the 4th century with Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (an area in present day Turkey). One of the legends tells about that he acquired a fortune when his parents died while he was still in his teens. By nature St.Nicholas was a generous and honest man, particularly devoted to children. He also cared deeply for the poor. He brought various gifts, money and other useful items to the houses of the poor. He did this at night, and in secrecy, so that no one knew, as he wanted no glory, he just wanted to help people. He became widely known for his generosity.
There is one famous legend about Saint Nicholas. The story tells of Nicholas hearing one day of three beautiful sisters who lived in a miserable hut on the edge of Myra. The three sisters were very poor. They could barely earn enough to keep themselves and their old mother from starving to death. When Nicholas heard of their plight, he was very concerned. He decided to do something to help them.
One night, when everyone was asleep, Nicholas crept through the streets to the edge of town. Quietly, he tiptoed up to the hut where the three sisters lived. He climbed onto the roof and dropped three bags of gold through the hole in the roof where the smoke from the fire came out. Now it so happened that the three sisters has washed their stockings before they went to bed. The stockings has been hung by the fire to dry. When Nicholas dropped the gold through the smoke hole, each bag of gold fell into a stocking.
The three sisters were overjoyed to find three bags of gold in their stockings when they woke up the next morning. Soon, the story began to spread. Other people began to hang up stockings in the hope of finding bags of gold when they woke up in the morning. From this legend sprang the custom of hanging stockings up by the chimney on Christmas Eve. Over the years, Saint Nicholas became associated with Christmas.
After his death around 350 A.D. he was buried in Myra, but in 1087 Italian sailors purportedly stole his remains and removed them to Bari, Italy, greatly increasing St. Nicholas' popularity throughout Europe. His kindness and reputation for generosity and love for children gave rise to claims that he could perform miracles and devotion to him increased. St. Nicholas became the patron saint of Russia, where he was famous for his red cape, flowing white beard, and bishop's mitre. In Greece, he is the patron saint of sailors; in France he was the patron of lawyers, and in Belgium the patron of children and travelers. The Dutch kept the legend of St. Nicholas alive. In 16th century Holland, Dutch children would place their wooden shoes by the hearth in hopes that they would be filled with a treat and goodies.